Over at NHL.com, Mike Zeisberger had a chance to sit down with Peter Chiarelli and ask him about his approach for the upcoming NHL Draft, plans going into the summer, Connor McDavid, and whether or not we should expect any big moves coming out of the Oilers this offseason. Let’s break it down.
With the NHL Entry Draft coming up in less than a month, I was curious to know about Chiarelli’s approach to drafting and what will happen with the 10th overall pick. Personally, I trust Chia’s draft record a lot more than I do his trade record and I was curious to know his thoughts when it comes to using a mid-first round pick. Not to mention, I want to know that what he’s thinking and whether or not I’ll be rage drinking on June 22nd when the Oilers get called up to the podium.
“I think generally you look at the best player. Where we pick you have a pretty good sense of who’s going to be there.”
B-P-A! B-P-A! Hook it to my veins, Pete. I love it! Sorry, I interrupted you. Please continue.
“Unless someone significant falls, there are three or four players at different positions who are at the same talent level. At this point, it may be by positional need. But you can’t ignore the best-skilled player. That’s generally our principle.”
Taking the best player available seems like an easy and obvious thing to do, right? It should be a no-brainer decision. Not so fast. Remember in the pre-Chiarelli drafts when the Oilers would take guys like Mitch Moroz with the 32nd overall pick and just hope that he learns how to be better at hockey. Hearing that his approach is to look at the best possible player regardless of position makes me happy because the good Gord knows we need skilled prospects. Here’s hoping the Red Wine Summits can stick to that plan.
One of the things we’ve been talking about here at the Nation for the past couple weeks was whether or not the Oilers should keep or trade the 10th overall pick. Some folks think that using the pick is some kind of voodoo gamble and not worth the risk, while others think that drafting and developing is the only way to truly succeed. When asked about whether or not he would move the 10th overall pick, Chiarelli seemed open to moving it but not necessarily as you’d expect.
“Well we actually dropped down one [spot] in the [NHL Draft] Lottery. We’d been planning at number 9 for a while but we knew we could drop down. I know there are teams ahead of us who have positional needs different from ours so that usually means there is an ability to move up. We would look at that.”
I’m super into the idea of the Oilers trading up in the draft if it doesn’t cost too much to make it happen. There are some solid defenceman to be had this year, and I would really love to see the Oilers go out and grab one of them. But, like I said, moving up will all depend on how much the Oilers will have to pay up to do it and whether or not it fits into the offseason plans. What say you, Pete? You gonna spill the beans on some of those plans of yours?
“We’re not going to do anything significant, generally speaking.”
I like this. Go on…
“We felt the year before wasn’t an anomaly. We felt we’d made significant progress (in 2016-17) on a number of different levels and things went south on a number of different levels. We really don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater here.”
Depends whose baby it is though, amirite? You could argue that Drake (rapper not winger) would consider throwing his baby out with the bathwater, but that’s another topic. Sorry, I keep interrupting and that’s rude. Go on.
“From the planning perspective, we’ve got some holes we’ve got to look at filling. I’m told by a number of different people, and it’s legitimate, that we need a power-play defenseman. That’s something that we’ll look at. Doesn’t mean that these players are just out there.”
So, what you’re saying here is that my beloved Nuge is safe, right? Is that right, Pete? What about Klefbom? He had a bad year and trading him after that doesn’t seem like a good idea, ya know? You get it. Right?
“Like I said, we don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater here, but also understand where we are as a team. We’ve really improved our depth right through our organization the past couple of years. Again, I just don’t want to dismiss that.”
I’m all for giving young players a chance to show what they can do but let’s not overestimate their abilities this time, alright? A couple of your bets for progression didn’t exactly work out so great last time, ya know?
“It doesn’t mean there are going to be guys who are going to be impactful right away but we’ve got some good young players coming up. And we’re going to get a good young player in this draft.”
This is good stuff, Pete, I like your answers so far. For a guy that doesn’t ever say too much you’re making me feel a little bit better. Besides, you need some good young players to plug in around Connor and getting them in the draft is likely the best way to make that happen.
“Obviously you can build around Connor and we plan to and we continue to do so. The expectations on him alone are so high. And he’ll meet them. But you need a strong supporting cast, you need a strong leadership group, you need good goaltending.”
So what you’re saying is that he can’t do it all, right? Pretty much the only thing Connor didn’t do last season was to jump between the pipes for a game or two. He needs help, bra. You know it, I know it. Make it happen.
“You look at all the teams that Gretzky played on, you look at all the teams that Lemieux has played on, you look at all the teams that Crosby plays on, they’re strong, strong teams around them. So, we have to do that.”
Good. I’m glad we agree on that. Since we’re talking about Connor, how do you think he handled this
gongshow of a season adversity? Was he pissed? Did he say anything? Did he talk about me? Did he get the hair doll I sent him?
“He’s growing up. Adversity is a good way to describe it. Dealing with him, dealing with Todd McLellan, dealing with the different issues we had to, you saw that he’s a mature young man and he’s learning.”
Did he learn that he probably has to score 200 points for the Oilers to be successful? Wait, sorry I’m trying to be positive here and I keep cutting you off. Old habits, ya know? Go on.
“We had the success the year before, we had the failures [this] year. That stuff, as much as it sounds weird, those failures are invaluable too as long as you learn from them and build from them. And he’s doing that. He’s a sponge.”
I think saying Connor is a sponge is almost insulting to how good he is. Dude takes in waaaaay more information than a sponge ever could. He’s some kind of ultra sexy super-computer. Deal? Good. Besides, sponges are slow and super-computers are lightning fast. Speaking of which, what do you think about people saying the Oilers are too slow?
“I’ve heard those suggestions. No way. We weren’t slow the year before.”
Sometimes I think any team that’s losing is deemed a slow team, but maybe that’s just me. That said, I do think the Oilers need to speed up their execution to make sure that they’re playing fast even if the humans not named Connor aren’t actually moving fast.
“You know what? You’ve heard it. It’s about playing fast.”
Yeah, that’s what I just said. Are you not even listening to me? Gosh. Anyway, in your mind, what does playing fast even mean?
“It’s about supporting, all that stuff makes you a fast team. Look at [the] Vegas [Golden Knights]. If you want to go player to player, are they fast? They play fast. Watch their support on the breakout. Watch their support in the neutral zone. Watch them move the puck. They have some fast D that move the puck so there’s an element of that [but] it’s a mentality that we have to recapture.”
I mean, it could be coaching as well but that’s a story for another day. I do like the state of mind thing, though. It reminds me of Morpheus telling Neo that he just had to believe that he could jump from building to building but that it took a minute before he fully realized his powers. Maybe the Oilers were like Neo, tumbling hundreds of feet from the rooftop and onto the pavement and it was that fall that helped them realize their full potential? If movies have taught me anything it’s that the protagonist has to go through some kind of adversity before eventually saving and falling in love with the princess. Maybe the 2017-18 season was that adversity. Maybe? Dare to dream.
Source: Mike Zeisberger, NHL.com, 5/30/2018 – 5:00 pm MST